Quebec Cinema

Published by Judith Lefebvre on


When learning a language, grammar and exercises are important, but at some point it is just as important to practice the language in a more realistic context.

If you are not ready to have conversations with native speakers, if you have few people with whom to practice French, or simply to try to improve your listening skills, I recommend that you watch a movie.

Unless you are in a movie theater, you can turn on the subtitles to begin with, you can pause and rewind to better understand… but I strongly suggest that you simply let the film run, without subtitles. Chances are you will only understand 50% of the film the first time… but that’s part of learning a language.

Why watch a movie without subtitles and without pausing?

The answer is very simple: if your goal is to have a conversation with people in French, you need to become comfortable in an environment that is as close as possible to the way you will be listening when people talk to you.


In theory, it’s a great tool for beginners, but the truth is that I often saw students go on to intermediate level French, but with worse listening comprehension than when they started the lessons. Subtitles had become a necessity; they could no longer hear without reading. So, if you opt for subtitles, remember to listen to a bit of French without them from time to time.


Along the same lines as subtitles, pausing is not something you can reproduce in real conversations with people. On the other hand, if you’re listening to a movie with three main characters and all of a sudden one of the characters is never seen again and you have no idea why, of course pause and rewind the movie to figure it out 😉

Remember after the pandemic, many people who were so used to virtual meetings found it quite hard not to be able to switch off their camera and do something else when the meeting got boring. So, I don’t want your understanding of French to depend on things you won’t be able to use during a face-to-face conversation.

Understand the idea, not each word

At a certain point in your learning of French, there will come a point when you won’t be trying to understand every word spoken by the person you are listening to, but your brain will concentrate solely on the general idea of each sentence. And believe me, your listening comprehension will take a gigantic leap forward at that moment. Watching movies without subtitles and without pausing will certainly bring this moment forward in your learning process.

I did it when I was learning English and I’m doing it now when I’m learning Italian.

Don’t be too hard on yourself at first. Choose movies that fit your level (I talk a bit about this in the description of each movie below) and respect yourself. For example, in my case, movies and series in Italian are still quite intense for me and require so much concentration that I only watch them for 20 minutes at a time, then take a break.

5 Quebec films

There are thousands of Quebec films and hundreds I would like to recommend to you, but I had to make a choice for this post, and if you like this kind of suggestion, I’ll do more posts like this.

For each film, I’ve included a link to Éléphant, a library of all Quebec cinema, which also allows you to rent the movies. A trailer is also available, if you would like a preview of the film.

Les Affamés

It’s a zombie movie. 
I put it first in the suggestions because the plot is easy enough to understand: you have to avoid zombies to stay alive.
The first film I watched in English was Twister… because it was easy to understand: you have to avoid the tornadoes!

Hochelaga terre des âmes

It’s the story of a land over hundreds of years. Hochelaga is the name of the native village where the city of Montreal now stands. It’s the story of this parcel of land through time, and of the souls who have lived there. From the Native wars, to the arrival of Jacques Cartier, to the reality of life in Nouvelle-France and the handover to the British, right up to the present day.
It’s a magnificent movie, with images that make each era so real! Each character’s mother tongue is respected in this film, so it’s sometimes in French, sometimes in English, sometimes in an native language. So yes, there are subtitles, but it’s such a beautiful film that I recommend it to everyone.
In my opinion, the level of difficulty varies for this movie. If English is your mother tongue, the parts in that language will give your brain a break… but in any case, when the young man presents his thesis at university, it’s likely to be a difficult moment of comprehension. But no matter, the movie is worth seeing.

La grande séduction 

I’m including this movie in this post firstly because it’s a beautiful film, but more importantly because it addresses the reality of thousands of villages around the world. The story of this film is so common to all nations that it has been translated into several languages, and a Canadian English-language remake was made, a French one (from France), an Italian one and a Mexican one is due for release soon.
This is the story of a small village whose economy was traditionally based on fishing, but which has fallen completely flat since the end of this commercial activity. There is the possibility of attracting a new factory, but investors are demanding that the village have at least one resident doctor. When a doctor from Montreal has to do a month of community work in the village, the locals see it as an unhoped-for chance to bring the village back to life.
In terms of the film’s difficulty level, I would say that the main plot is very easy to understand and follow. However, the characters speak with a strong Québécois accent, using many expressions peculiar to Quebec.
*Since the image quality of the Elephant trailer isn’t fantastic, you can find it here:

Bon cop, bad cop

The meeting of Canada’s French and English cultures.
I don’t know if you knew, but French and English culture are often described as Canada’s “two solitudes”, because they rarely mix.
This is an action movie. A corpse is found literally on the border between Ontario and Quebec, and two detectives, one from Quebec and one from Ontario, must put their differences aside to solve the murder.
In terms of difficulty level, the plot is a little harder to follow than the first three movies in this article, but since it was filmed in both English and French, perhaps the English part will explain what you didn’t understand in French.
*There’s no trailer for Elephant, so you can find it here:

Elles étaient cinq

I hesitated a little before putting this movie in the suggestions, but when I thought of a psychological thriller, a strong film and a movie tackling a subject that will touch everyone (and not just an issue specific to Quebec), it was this movie that always came to mind.
It’s the story of five girls, lifelong friends, who are the victims of a sudden and life-changing attack. The movie tells the story of how no two victims are the same, of rebuilding to move on with one’s life, and of trying not to live in fear when the attacker is paroled.
As you can imagine, the level is not easy, since much of the beauty and complexity of this film lies in its dialogue.

Your challenge: watch a Quebec film

As you can imagine, your challenge will be to watch a Quebec film. You can choose one of the five suggested in this post, or search Elephant to find one that suits your taste.
Let me know in the comments which film you watched and if it was difficult for you to understand.

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